Garry Bushell
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May 25. Polish puppeteers, a brilliant Canadian magician, and three French berks dancing in high-heels... These have been the stand-out moments of this year’s Britain’s Got Talent. Anyone spot the contradiction? We would have had a Romanian pickpocket display team too, but they were too busy trying to move next door to Nigel Farage...

We did get Cristian Spiridon though, the deluded X Factor reject who is to singing what Vladimir Putin is to international diplomacy. We have to endure more of the time-wasting twerp because David put him through with his Golden Buzzer. Hilarious, no? No. Walliams can be funny, but is more interested in camp clowns than genuine ability. A cock in a frock who can’t sing? Through to tonight! A sparkling twerp belting out ‘I Am What I Am’ badly? Through to tonight! It’s as wearing as his fake flirting with Cowell.

As the judges sift through their ‘winners’, they might start feeling like those castaways on The Island whose fishing nets produced inedible catch after inedible catch. “Poo fish” they call them; they look okay but taste like crap - the seafood equivalent of Joe ‘Do The Prawn’ Poulton. The judges have ended up with a glut of mediocre singers, dancers and people who’ve worked with Syco. It’s largely their own fault. They’re all as puffed-up as Branson’s balloon but none has any depth of showbiz knowledge, which is why they were so impressed when Ricky K came on doing Lee Evans’s act last weekend.

Their opinions ought to carry more weight than Emma’s pole but Amanda and Alesha know nothing, and Simon is only interested in singers he can make more mega-bucks from. Nothing wrong with earning of course, but this is supposed to be a talent contest not the Make-Cowell-Richer show. The lack of decent comedians and impressionists is a major failing. Probable certs for a mostly musical final are Bailey McConnell, 14, who looks like a young Bieber and sings like Tracy Chapman (ker-ching!). Those rapping kids, the bullied opera bird... And posh violinist Lettice who is one leaf short of a salad and whose frantic fiddling would blow the socks off anyone who doesn’t remember Vanessa Mae. Despite that, I love the show. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Britain’s Got Talent that couldn’t be fixed with new judges, a fresh production team and more actual talent.

YOU want Man Vs Weird? Penny Dreadful makes Ripper Street seem like Home & Away. Set in London 1891, it pits human heroes against ghouls who would turn Jack Bauer pale – vampires, mummies, creeps with exoskeletons... There hasn’t been such a monstrous collection of soulless bloodsuckers this side of the BAFTAs. Tim Dalton plays explorer Sir Malcolm Murray whose daughter has been turned into a vamp. He’s joined by fairground sharp-shooter Josh Harnett and Eva Green a woman who could raise the dead in more ways than one. Frankenstein and his monster are on side too. This macabre mash-up is dark, compelling and genuinely chilling – a journey into “a half-world between what we know and what we fear... full of terrible souls cursed to life.” In other words, they’re beating EastEnders at its own game.

*THE opening scene saw someone sucked violently out of a toilet, which is where any similarity with Virgin Airlines flight ended.

THE BAFTAs should have sent shockwaves through the BBC – only the Lib Dems took a worst battering. They were smashed across the board, especially in drama where ITV’s Broadchurch took the crown and stunning imports like Netflix’s House Of Cards showed them up. Yet the original was a BBC hit in 1990. If the Corporation wasn’t cosseted by the licence fee, bosses might be asking: if we could do it then, why not now? The Beeb has become a titanosaur of tedium; strong on news bias, weak on mainstream comedy and entertainment. The Voice can’t produce stars, and squinting Claudia, the cringe with the fringe, is odds-on to take the shine off Strictly. BBC1 drama is particularly poor: mumble-fest Jamaica Inn, sanitized soap The Crimson Field, The Musketeers - Porthos, Athos and Dead-Loss... We get three Sherlock episodes a year and with luck one will actually be worth watching. If you want bold, radical or risk-taking writing, look elsewhere.

*BAFTA gave Cilla a Special Award for fifty years service to TV, largely because for the last ten she’s stayed off it.

HOT on TV: Penny Dreadful (Sky Atlantic)... Braquo (Fox)... Lizzie Brocheré... Jack Taylor (C5)... Carice Van Houten (Game of Thrones)

ROT on TV: BAFTA acceptance speeches... mumbling Sean Harris... Ryan on The Island – as much use as a fish out of water.

THAT guy apparently pulling a car with his eyelids was as gruesome on Man Vs Weird as he was originally on YouTube. Presenter Simon Farnaby looked about as comfortable as Prince Charles at a Moscow state banquet. I’m still worried about Biba, though. If he can cook a banger by conducting electricity through his hands, imagine the damage he’d do as your urologist.

*GOOGLEBOX couple Dom and Steph Parker’s plush Kent mansion was hired for an orgy. Mercifully, the shag-pile was undamaged. Exhausted but undamaged.

*GOOD looks alone aren’t enough for a career, says Sophia Loren. Tell it to Cheryl Cole.

*MISSING from England’s Top 19 Footy Heroes – the eleven who brought home the World Cup.

Small Joys of TV: Del-Boys & Dealers. Porridge – The Inside Story. Fast Show Special. Demob-happy Paxman. Paul O’Grady asking BAFTA suits: “Do I need Doris Stokes to talk to you?” Tom Hollander’s Dylan Thomas ordering: “Bourbon please, too much of it.” Amen to that.

RANDOM irritations: Astrology on The Daily Politics. EastEnders recycling old twists. C4 casting Man Vs Weird by diligently “researching” old episodes of Stan Lee’s Superhumans.

SEPARATED at birth: Green MEP Will Duckworth, and Roy Chubby Brown? Both make me laugh...

*FOUR Rooms wants to be Dragons’ Den meets The Antiques Roadshow, but never catches fire. Watching experts haggle with sellers individually will never be as exciting as four clued-up dealers bidding openly against each other.

*DISNEY is making Frozen On Ice. Isn’t ‘Frozen’ cold enough?

*THE young Lynn Barber looked a lot like Lily Allen. Makes sense. One sang about an air balloon, the other turned into one.

*BAFTA mysteries: why has no UK channel screened brilliant Breaking Bad in full? Why snub BBC2’s Peaky Blinders? What is it about Ant & Dec’s Late Late House Party that makes it BAFTA-worthy? The lack of originality or the phone vote scam?

May 18. There must be more chance of a straight man winning Eurovision than of BBC1 producing a decent sitcom. Monks was about as much fun as upsetting Solange Knowles in a broken-down lift. The show had more writers than laughs. It was originally made for radio fourteen years ago and hasn’t improved with age. Seann Walsh played feckless benefits cheat Gary who joins a religious order to evade the cops - although of course a real-life benefits cheat would be punished with reality TV ‘stardom’ and holidays in the Med. A lame plot and witless banter duly ensued...

This Comedy Playhouse series has been a conveyor belt of duds. Miller’s Mountain was as funny as the broken legs it served up as punch-lines. Over To Bill felt over the hill. And now Monks has done for entertainment what Brazilian quicksand threatens to do for World Cup sunbathing.

Is this really the best the Beeb can do? Probably, yes. BBC comedy has become a closed shop of failure protected by the licence fee. Veteran producer John Lloyd recently hit out at comedy commissioning editors with a background in “scheduling, marketing and car-parking.” Spot on. They’re also hamstrung by political correctness, lack of vision, focus groups and an infuriating obsession with box ticking.

They’ve forgotten that the people who wrote our most revered sitcoms weren’t Oxbridge graduates with degrees in smart-arse and the art of sneering but genuinely funny folk from humble roots. Johnny Speight was a docker’s son, Alan Simpson a shipping clerk, Ray Galton worked for a trade union, John Sullivan was a scene shifter... I’m not suggesting that only people from blue-collar backgrounds have a sense of humour, just that the right-on privileged few have had their go and completely mucked up. Why not try earthy three-dimensional characters again? Fletcher, the Royles and the Trotters worked partly because viewers knew people like these actually existed. The same is true of every great comic creation from Basil Fawlty to David Brent, via Rigsby, Victor Meldrew and Neil ‘Smithy’ Smith. There was nothing remotely real about Monks. Isn’t it time to sack BBC’s entire comedy department and start again? It’s been a long time since Fools & Horses; too bloody long.

THOSE “real-life Incredibles” on Man Vs Weird missed their calling. They should have gone in for Britain’s Got Talent instead. Cowell would have lapped up Ivan the Magnetic Boy from Croatia and Biba, Serbia’s Electric Man, without asking a single difficult question. Like for example: are spoons sticking to Ivan because he’s fat and clammy, or because he has his own gravitational field? And more seriously, can Biba really conduct enough electric current through his hands to cook sausages because he was born without sweat glands? What does the science say? Presenter Simon Farnaby made little attempt to explain their “powers.” He didn’t even pull up Hungarian Laszlo when he claimed he can “manipulate gravity”, as opposed to gullibility... Although with his skill at balancing plates and wine bottles on bare skin, Laz would make a bloody good shoplifter. We needed James Randi on the case, not a mildly sceptical comic actor. The challenge should be: either reproduce this in a lab, under controlled conditions, or admit that it’s hokum. As for Roca charging for his “telekinetic” healing energy, that’s one for the Croatian equivalent of Watchdog.

*IS David Cameron the anti-magnetic man? None of his “cast-iron” promises seem to stick...

TV’S latest and possibly greatest female icon is sword-wielding Lagertha on Vikings. She’s sexy, loyal and worth two good men in any punch-up. You’d certainly rather love her than fight her. Vikings is from the same US drama stable as The Tudors. It’s about as historically accurate as Blackadder but tremendous fun all the same. Lagertha told husband Ragnar “I want to ride you like a bull, a wild bull” – presumably one hand on the horn, the other round the neck, and cling on for a good bucking. Or at least until one of you is tossed off.

*HISTORICAL inaccuracies in Vikings: 1) Battle-axes are from IKEA 2) Ragnar’s raid on England inspires first UKIP branch. 3) Warriors demanding “less Thor, more Zeppelin... ”

HOT on TV: Peter Dinklage (Game Of Thrones)... Katheryn Winnick (Vikings)... Tamer Hassan (24)... Matt LeBlanc (Episodes)... Prey finale.

ROT on TV: 24 Hours To Go Broke – not so much The Trip as The Tripe... Ex On The Beach... Monks – Father Dreadful... The Charlotte Crosby Experience – all the class of a freshly pissed bed.

BBC2’s The Comedy Vaults had a shed load of fools’ gold locked up with the gems. Early footage of Pete & Dud and Spike Milligan crackled with invention. The joyless Madness TV pilot written by Ben Elton and Richard Curtis was “hidden treasure” that should have stayed buried, though. Shame they snubbed The Bob Monkhouse Show, which launched Joan Rivers in the UK, and The Goodies, who once attracted 30million viewers but now, bizarrely, are never repeated.

*SO four of the thirteen chumps Bear Grylls has dumped on The Island are paid members of staff... and they still can’t catch a fish worth eating. This is worse than Survivor and that had £1million prize and a bloke who came with sausages up his arse. Which reminds me, has hairdresser Dean done anything yet?

*DID you see that poor woman’s black and swollen hooter on Embarrassing Bodies? It looked almost as painful as that big brown one James Corden had when he met Gary Barlow.

*MEDICAL condition of the century from Dr Christian: diphallia – which means being born with two penises. Normally when someone says “There’s that guy with the two dicks” they’re talking about Busted.

*NEXT: Christian visits The Big Allotment Challenge and finds old Jim’s green fingers are the result of multiple organ failure...

Small Joys of TV: Tara the action cat. Episodes. Fargo. Peter Barlow. Nikki Spraggan (EastEnders) – a toweling inferno. Jay Leno (The One Show). Poland’s Eurovision milkmaids. Joy Tickle on Embarrassing Bodies (but where’s her sister Tessa?).

RANDOM irritations: Plans to remake Porridge, a word of advice: DON’T. Why mess with perfection? BBC News distorting immigration statistics through selective reporting. Eurovision juries over-turning the public vote, who do they think they are, the EU?

SEPARATED at birth: Dave Murray and Kirsty Young? One’s from Iron Maiden, the other is one...

TV Maths. Ant + young Todd Carty = Dale Lomax on Prey.

*NEXT year on The Big Allotment Challenge: hardening off, bedding, forcing, and spraying. Or is that the Lady Chatterley remake?

*DISASTER! I left the Allotment finale on still pause and came back to find greenfly all over me zapper.

JENNY on Ejector Seat was talking about her moving chair when she exclaimed: “I wasn’t expecting my undercarriage to give way like that.” The curse of old age, I suppose.

May 11. Jack Bauer has been in hiding for longer than two Katie Price marriages. But he’s still as disturbing as Russian tanks on your front lawn. Our whispering hero got himself nabbed by the spooks on 24: Live Anther Day - a ruse to get inside the CIA’s London HQ and spring his old CTU sidekick Chloe O’Brian from custody. Chloe is in a terrible state. Not only had she been tortured and left in a coma, she’s also had a full-on Goth make-over complete with industrial strength black eye-liner. Her barnet now looks more half-cut than Lily Allen on a bender - she’s finally found a hair-style to match her permanent scowl. She’s also been passing intel to wiki-leak geeks, making her half Edwina Snowden, half the girl with the dragon tattoo... or dragon-strength PMT.

The CIA see her and Jack as enemies of the state, but when do they ever get anything right? Their only agent with any brains is blonde action woman Kate Morgan – and her idiot boss was trying to transfer her. So is Jack back to bump off US President James Heller – or to save him? What do you think? Bauer may be a psycho, but he’s a patriotic psycho, dammit; even if he does treat the rules like a dog treats a lamp post.

Heller is here to hammer out a new treaty with British Prime Minister, Stephen Fry. (Our PM, a public school educated posh bloke obsessed with gay issues? Wherever do they get this stuff from?) The treaty is jeopardized when terrorists hack into the US military drone system and blow up a joint US/UK patrol in Afghanistan. Catelyn Stark from Game of Thrones is behind it all. And Jack is Heller’s best way out of the mess. But the Pres is losing his marbles, and his daughter Audrey (Jack’s ex) is married to scheming chief of staff Mark Boudreau who doesn’t want either of them to know Bauer’s re-surfaced... The 24 formula had got tired, but this series feels like taking a ride on your favourite rollercoaster again. It has all the thrills and spills, the pace and last minute escapes, the fairground twists and turns. Whether the known unknowns (agency moles, Washington plotters) return too, we can’t yet say. It’s just great to have Jack back. Dammit.

*THERE were so many different nationalities in 24’s London it was like being backstage at Britain’s Got Talent.

ON Love For Sale, Rupert Everett took part in an S&M session where Madame Dita, a top heavy dominatrix from Hull, shoved a prison truncheon up the backside of a client in a gimp suit. Even partially pixelated it was a jaw-dropping moment, up there with Rebecca Loos pleasuring a pig or Kinga with her wine bottle. And yet no-one has kicked up a fuss about it. Have we become so jaded that a bloke being subjected to a well-greased “anal punisher” on TV doesn’t even raise an eyebrow? If he’d taken off his mask and revealed himself to be a prominent MP, no-one would have been the least bit surprised.

*MAYBE it was satire. Maybe the masochist represents the voters, and the truncheon a system that allows the taxman to raid joint bank accounts...

*MADAME Dita has clients who pay her to send them her poo by post. Upset Sharon Osbourne and she’ll do that for nothing.

BEAR Grylls has dumped thirteen blokes alone on a Pacific island, to see if they can survive unaided. It’s not looking good. It took them two days just to light a fire and a spineless jellyfish (not hairdresser Dean) stung Sam in the face. Give ’em a few more hungry days and there’s every chance call centre clot Ryan will be roasting on a spit. Tony, 70, the ex-cop who talks like Frank Sidebottom, is safe though. Too much gristle.

* THE Island is like I’m A Celebrity without celebs. If they’d waited a couple more years, they could have cast it entirely with Katie Price’s ex-husbands.

*POOR Katie, another marriage gone. But on the plus side, that’s got to be worth at least two more TV series.

HOT on TV: Yvonne Strahovski – putting the phwoar in 24... Sarah Lancashire (Happy Valley – unhappy script)... Louie (Fox)... Almost Human (Watch).

ROT on TV: Cardinal Burns – all style, no laughs... Lindsay Lohan (TLC) – swapping booze for snooze... Miller’s Mountain – comedy’s pits... Will Young’s Perspectivezzz.

KIRSTY Wark moaned about male comics cracking unpleasant jokes about women. It’s like she’d never heard Jo Brand say “The way to a man’s heart is through his breast plate with a knife.” Joan Rivers and Roseanne don’t hold back much either. Kirsty’s horror at a hockey team’s bad taste chants suggests she has never seen a hen party in action. Or watched Loose Women.

*BIG trouble at the Eurovision semis. In a moment of madness the Russian entry occupied half of Ukraine’s dressing room.

*AMANDA Holden is part of the dementia awareness campaign. Makes sense – think of all those times she forgot she was married to Les.

*MASTERCHEF hit Albert Square, with a cry of “Tarts on!” It was like the Slater sisters had never left. Wouldn’t it have been more fun if they’d had to cook with mystery meat supplied by Big Mo and Fat Elvis?

*TOTAL strangers will marry on a new C4 show. They’ll be matched by computer, instead of the traditional method of getting “Peter Barlow-ed” in Vegas.

Small Joys of TV: Ed Stafford’s Marooned. Billy Connolly. Penn & Teller. Kim Raver (24), crazy name, crazy girl. Hannibal’s ferocious kitchen fight scene – one way to liven up Masterchef.

RANDOM irritations: Eurovision, can’t Putin annex it? Corrie, currently as exciting as a night out with Emily Bishop. C4’s Draw It – it’s just Win Lose Or Draw without the laughs.

SEPARATED at birth: Billy Bob Thornton in Fargo and Captain Beefheart? One a deeply disturbed genius... and so’s the other one. Runner-up: Jo Brand and The Pygmy Hippo.

*TOP 10 comics missing from Top 50 Greatest Stand-Up Comedians: Max Miller, Chris Rock, Steve Martin, Jim Davidson, Jackie Mason, Ken Dodd, Rosanne Barr, Mike Reid, Jerry Sadowitz, Sam Kinison.

*COMEDY was Mel and Sue’s “only hope,” says Mel. Odd, considering they were laugh-free and hopeless.

*IF the Skull Cracker was in an open prison, where will they bang up Stuart Hall? Maplins? St Trinians?

*OTHER mysteries, is Vera wearing Columbo’s old mac? Was Shirley Carter’s wig an ET tribute? When will Heston re-imagine his famous Fat Duck vomiting bugs? Yum.

TV maths. Rylan + Tulisa = Conchita Wurst.

May 4. Rupert Everett may be a puffed-up twerp, but his Love For Sale show did offer genuine insights into the world’s oldest profession. We learnt for example that some backstreet prostitutes charge “£20 for oral, £30 for sex and £40 for a good time.” But not what that good time might actually entail. Is there anything better than the first two options? Do they make you a bacon butty, pour your beer and read you the football scores as well? Rupe didn’t ask. He was too busy gossiping in French, flirting with male escorts and making deliberately provocative statements. Like claiming the line between acting and whoring is “thin to say the least,” which conjured up unwelcome images of Cora Cross in edible smalls.

Like Everett himself, the two-part documentary was an odd confection zapping between the mundane and the murderous, the fluffy and the frightening. I liked happy hooker Charlotte Rose, an attractive Devon mum so cozy and organized it wouldn’t surprise you to find she gives Nectar points. She certainly enjoys her job; Charlotte aims for at least as many climaxes as her clients. Come again? If possible... The woman must be sitting on a fortune.

Up in the North East, Hannah runs her escort agency like a minicab firm with a list of warnings about clients on a whiteboard: ‘Jonny12 – rough, Mark14 – text pest, Jeff1 – Britain’s most boring man... ’ (Poor Jeff. We don’t know who he is, but odds on he’s something to do with commissioning comedies at the BBC.) The agency employs a nurse and two teachers who no doubt bring new meaning to the naughty step.

But then in Paris, Rupert chatted to Toms on the Bois de Boulogne about his transsexual pal Lychee who’d met a sticky end there in 1998. Scouse streetwalkers take terrible risks too, with 95per cent are addicted to drugs or alcohol. You could get high on their halitosis alone. One brass said that 90per cent of her clients needed “some kind of anal experience.” In most cases, a kick up the arse. And just when you felt Rupe could do with one too, he became incredibly articulate, arguing rationally that prostitution can’t be stopped so it should be made safe for all concerned. Next time? Russell Brand and Bondage. Whacko!

THE BBC are right to remind us that Comedy Playhouse was a brilliant launch pad for sitcoms - and utterly deluded to think that they can pull off the same trick today. Over To Bill, their latest laugh-free pilot about a sacked weatherman, was a half-hearted farce full of clichés and two-dimensional characters... all about as welcome as the desk on Good Morning Britain. Comedy Playhouse didn’t play safe in some whimsical middle class sitcom-land. It took chances and rocked the boat. Steptoe & Son, about father and son rag-and-bone men trapped in a love-hate relationship, was as tragic as it was funny. Other early spin-off hits included Till Death Us Do Part about a big-mouthed East End bigot, and from the similar 1973 series Seven Of One, the classic prison-set Porridge. Created by blue-collar writers, they dealt in flawed but recognisable characters that millions warmed to. Working class scribes also created Del-Boy, the Royles and the Likely Lads. Totters, Trotters, dossers and loudmouth dockers... there seems to be a common theme here, but naturally the Beeb don’t get it. They need to shut down their closed shop of privileged writers, tear up the PC rulebook, and let us laugh at the world as it is again.

DID We Land On The Moon, asked Channel 5? The simple answer is; yes, next question. Instead, we got an hour of crackpot theories and ‘science’ that held less water than a kitchen sieve. We heard at length from Bill Kaysing (astrophysical qualification? a degree in English), 9/11 conspiracy crank Ralph René and other loons. Then right at the end, C5 showed actual lunar rover footage of the junk the Yanks had left behind on the moon’s surface. Ah, say the nuts, maybe that’s faked too. Yes, and maybe the Mars rover is drilling on the Isle of Sheppey, maybe the world really is a great big onion, maybe we’re all living in the Matrix...

HOT on TV: Billy Bob Thornton (Fargo)... Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black)... John Simms (Prey) – though I’m praying he gets better scripts.

ROT on TV: Good Morning Britain – goodbye viewers... Rupert Everett – Oscar Mild... Ejector Seat – makes Golden Balls look like Mastermind... Let Me Entertain You – no, let entertainers entertain us!

ALIENS: Are We Alone? Probably not, but as the nearest star to our sun is four light years away, the chances of meeting any are more slender than Doctor Who’s Cassandra. C5 can imagine that ETs look like ugly thick-skinned beasts with trunk-like snouts if they like, I’ll stick with Leeloo from The Fifth Element until it’s proved otherwise.

*THE Big Allotment Challenge posed the question: “Do you go for length or thicker stumpy ones?” Yes, girls, what shape carrots do you prefer? Fern was impressed by Alex and Ed’s efforts: “You’ve certainly got the biggest ones here.” It’s not Bake-Off but they’re trying. Bless.

*ON EastEnders, Tina told Sonia she has “a great rack” and looks “amazing totally.” Uh-oh, should have gone to Specsavers. Naturally they snogged. A case of bi now, gay later for Son? Again?

*THE Following ended. Shame. Now fans of random killing cults have only got our soap writers.

*CELEBRITY Fit Club died when viewers realised they weren’t celebrities, they weren’t fit and there was no club. Take heed, Britain’s Got Talent where the talent isn’t British and the Brits have no talent beyond karaoke, crummy camp crap, and dull dancers.

*EJECTER seat is like Graham Norton’s tipping chair turned into the world’s lamest fairground ride, except contestants aren’t even properly ejected. The Voice should nick the idea, though. Each week at the end, the most irritating judge gets catapulted into a tank of piranhas... I’d watch that.

Small Joys of TV: Diana Rigg (Game Of Thrones). Rob Brydon. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Sex scenes on The Americans – the hottest Cold War since records began.

RANDOM irritations: BBC1’s soapified dramas. Dumbed-down documentaries. Vera. Hancock coming 29th in the Greatest Comedy Characters list. Masterchef dragging on like Max Branning’s feet.

ARE Young British Artists like Damien Hirst the art world equivalent of punk rock, as Martin Kemp claims, or cynical fakes on the make? Nothing says punk quite like Hirst’s Old Etonian art dealer Jay Jopling and mega-rich gallery owner Charles Saatchi...

SEPARATED at birth: Boyd Hilton and Al, Toy Story’s Chicken Man... both are clueless cluckers.

THOSE great TV mysteries in full: how did Brucie’s hair grow back? Mark Kermode – has he ever been dumped on? How does Andi Peters get away with it?